The exhibition “The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014” closed with great success, at the V&A Museum, London. It has been the first major show to analyse Italian rich and influential contribution to fashion during the second half of the last century.
During the II World War, the Italian fascist government used fashion to construct a sense of modern nationhood, relying on the millenarian national tradition – fashion clues can be found even in Etruscan and pre- Romans Italy.
The story of Italian fashion was explored through the pivotal individuals and organisations that have contributed to its reputation for quality and style, within the prevailing social and political context. On display there were around 100 ensembles and accessories by leading Italian fashion houses including Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Fendi, Gianfranco Ferré, Gucci, Missoni, Prada, Pucci and Versace, through to the next generation of talent including couture by Giambattista Valli, bold ready-to-wear from Fausto Puglisi and work from Valentino’s new designers duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli. It also highlighted the creativity of influential but less remembered figures such as post-war couturiers Sorelle Fontana (Fontana sisters) and Mila Schön and design innovators such as Walter Albini.
The exhibition The Glamour of Italian Fashion mapped the international perception of Italian style from the milestone Sala Bianca catwalk shows of the early 1950s, until contemporary momentum and with a look at the future.
The Glamour of Italian Fashion considered how Italy’s fashion designers, manufacturers, press and related industries are navigatingthe current shift towards overseas production, fast-fashion, internet retail and digital communication.
The V&A Museum exhibition explored the post -war scenario in 1945. The Italian government intended to revive the ruined country. A big help arrived from the Marshall Plan. As clothing designers and manufacturer gradually resumed trading, their stylish designs responded to a hunger of glamour after years of wartime and fascist deprivation. For Italians luxury products were not affordable. But in the 1950s and 1960s prices get lower due to export.
In February 1951, Giovanni Battista Giorgini launched Italy’s first internationally recognised fashion show which took place in his own home in Firenze. At that time Paris was considered the capital of fashion. In 1952 he secured the use of the Sala Bianca an opulent gallery in Palazzo Pitti. Giorgini was able to pack together 83 press from all over the world and top Italian designers.
In the 1950s, numerous Hollywood films were shot on location in the studios of Cinecittà, a borough of Rome, including Roman
Elizabeth Taylor wears Bulgari jewellery at the masked ball, Hotel Ca’Rezzonico, Venice (1967)
Holidays and Cleopatra. They put Italy in public eye. Italian fashion houses were associated with clientele of celebrities, and their shopping trips to Firenze or their holidays in Mali. Marcello Mastroianni’s trim suit in the film La Dolce Vita (1960) did much to popularise the Italian suit worldwide. A well-tailored suit requires precisely cut fabric and exact fit, along with fine finishing details. The smallest design elements, such as the shape of a pocket or sleeve, often differed from region to region. A Neapolitan suit could be distinguished from one produced in Rome.
Despite the many problems of the country, in 1970s Italian fashion blossomed. The popularity of the couture gave way to enthusiasm for manufactured fashion. By the 1980s, Milan became the Italy’s new fashion capital due to its fashion press, advertising industry and nearby clothing and textile factories.
The Glamour of Italian Fashion highlighted the exceptional quality of techniques, materials and expertise for which Italy has become renowned. Its status as manufacturer and exporter of some of the world’s most stylish and well-made fashion and textiles is linked to the strength of its traditional industries including spinning, dyeing, weaving, cutting and stitching. Some of these traditions have been practised in regions around Italy for hundreds of years. A digital map visualised the networks of mills, workshops and the clusters of related industries seen across the Italian landscape.
“Made in Italy” was born as a marketing campaign that celebrated a rainbow of finest goods: cinema, art, food, tourism, design, architecture and chief among them, fashion.
An interesting aspect of the Made in Italy was to remark Italian fashion knowledge of its talented use of leather and fur, which require great skill to be transformed into a garment or accessories.
By early 1970s, Milan had started to conceal both Florence and Rome as Italy’s fashion capital. A new figure emerged: the stilista. The Italian word is more widen then English terms designer or stylist. The Italian term refers to a mediator between industry, retail buyers, the public and the press. The stilista aims to create the perfect style, not the prefect outfit. The stilistas moved consumer to the ready –to –wear new fashion.
Italy invested in its centuries-old but languishing textile industry. After the II World War, entrepreneurial activities flourished in regions such Como, Biella, e Prato. By 1960s, Italy overtook Lyon as per coveted fashion fabrics.
A series of video at the Glamour of Italian Fashion showed the relevance of the influential Distretti Produttivi, areas dedicated to special productions and in which the Italian territory was predominately organised. Particularly, Tuscany is associated with leather for its famous workshops and factories. Como considered the land of silk. Biella is the capital of wool and textile manufacturing hub. Prato centre for industry highly specialised in medical, sport and from production to sale management.
From 1970s and 1980s and beyond ready –to-wear was renewed. It became a point of strength of Made in Italy production. The Italian fashion export increased by the 300% to 1985.
The Made in Italy also promoted the knitwear system. Italy started during the 1950s to produce fashionable knitted garments. International buyers looked to Italy for its imaginative and stylish shapes. Between 1963 and 1965, export of Italian knitwear quadrupled. I personally remember my aunties having these knitting machines at home and providing items to industries. This fashion lasted for years and it was a big home based business for housewives.
Since the mid-1990s, fashion has become even more international. Many more Italian designers have become celebrities in their own right and solidified their country reputation of a global tastemaker. It started a cult of fashion designer, someone who sells a universe of goods across continents. Some have transformed long-established family firms into international luxury brand.
Italian designers and magazines have been particularly expert at creative collaboration with photographer, who have helped to crystallise the perception of Italian fashion over the past three decades.
But what is the future of Italian fashion? The Glamour of Italian Fashion concluded with a series of filmed interviews with key protagonists across the design, manufacturing and media sectors discussing the challenges and trends that will impact on and shape the future of Italian fashion.
Even if Italian reputation has suffered there is a limitless demand for Italian Style products. The years 2000s have posed great problems. The Italian network production is losing ground. What will Made in Italy mean in future? The filmed responses are taken from interviews with key protagonists from Italy’s fashion industry.
Their opinions advise what the future might look like. The video suggests the globalisation is a crucial event. Certification of production is more and more important allowing clients to recognised immediately Italian origins. Quality of production and goods are key elements. Another aspect is the ability of workers and their experience which si significant for a good quality production, especially regarding artisanal craftsmanship. There is a need of a wakeup call and a need of young designer. Also in Italy the laws are terrible and government does not support the business, but rather the opposite. Globalisation is important, customers are coming from abroad but also competitors are trying to imitate Italian fashion.
It is interesting to notice that in 1950s nearly 80% of the Italian wardrobes were handmade. It was a land of “sartine”, female – but not only- tailors who were making alterations, repairing and even producing clothes, including my mother, her aunt and my grand-grandmother. Widowed twice, the latter grown up a family of four by herself – in the 1920s, during the Fascism, in poor Italian countryside and without any social benefits – by doing tailoring. Glamour of Italian Fashion lacks a bit of this massive background, a real cradle of the sector.
The exhibition draws upon original researches undertaken within Italian archives. This is a critical point of Glamour of Italian
Fashion. Unfortunately, Italy business is largely based on black market work – in every sector – largely due to the big lacks of the tax and revenue laws. This cannot be found in archives. I can personally confirm, for the story of my family and from the ones of my friend and peers, many housewives had their little machine to produce knitwear. Or maybe they were working with knitting needles or crochet, or simply sewing. Nationwide companies based their fortune on this side of the business. The contribution of these women in terms of production, but also of design and fashion, is immense and many times companies took unfair profit of it. But, sadly, it cannot be found in archives.
The objects on display were drawn from the V&A’s leading Italian fashion collections and from international lenders. These included private foundations, fashion houses and archives such as the Fondazione Emilio Pucci, Foto Locchi, Missoni Archive and Museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and Galleria del Costume (Florence).
The exhibition curator was Sonnet Stanfill, curator of 20th century and contemporary fashion at the V&A. The exhibition designers were Urban Salon.
The exhibition sponsors were: Bulgari, Nespresso and the Blavatnik Family Foundation. Since 1884, Bulgari jewels have been an emblem of Italian creativity and craftsmanship. Bulgari is a global luxury brand, renowned for its distinctively Italian style, blending classicism and modernity. The Bulgari store in Rome (1905) has long been a favourite meeting place for international elite of artists, writers and actors. Bulgari has been part of the LVMH Group since 2011.
Nespresso is the pioneer and reference for highest-quality premium portioned coffee and operates in almost 60 countries with a global network of over 300 exclusive boutiques.
The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of leading educational, scientific, cultural and charitable institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom and throughout the world.
The Glamour of Italian Fashion exhibition 1945-2014 was at the V&A Museum, London, from 5th April until 27th July 2014.
Marcello Geppetti (1933-1998) Brigitte Bardot in Spoleto, June 1961 MGMC & Solares Fondazione delle Arti
This summer the Estorick Collection presents to LondonersThe Years of La Dolce Vita, an exhibition which explores one of the most fertile periods in contemporary Italian cinema and the simultaneous explosion of celebrity culture. The eighty photographs capture the dolce vita (literally ‘sweet life’) enjoyed by Italian movie stars and Hollywood ‘royalty’ working in Rome during the 1960s.
The 1950s and ’60s were a golden era in Italian film when directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Federico Fellini produced some of their most famous movies, including the latter’s iconic La Dolce Vita (1960). Hollywood stars John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Lauren Bacall and Liz Taylor, to name but a few, frequented the capital as American filmmakers were lured to Rome by the comparative inexpensiveness of its Cinecittà studios, and it was here that such epic productions as Ben-Hur (1959) and Cleopatra (1963) were shot. In the evenings, however, the focus of Rome’s movie culture – as well as the lenses of its paparazzi – shifted to the bars and restaurants lining the city’s exclusive Via Veneto and the popular haunts of glamorous celebrities such as Alain Delon, Kirk Douglas and Audrey Hepburn (fig. 1), transforming Rome’s streets into ‘an open-air film set’.
The exhibition juxtaposes images of this real-life dolce vita taken by Marcello Geppetti, one of its most skilful chroniclers, with behind-the-scenes shots from the set of the eponymous film by its cameraman, Arturo Zavattini. Together, these photographs vividly evoke an era of extraordinary glamour, creativity and decadence, yet also challenge us to consider our response to the media’s obsession with celebrity, the invasive nature of the images, and the ‘guilty pleasure’ we take in them.
The term paparazzo is taken from Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, being the name of a character inspired by a number of real-life photojournalists then active in Rome, including Rino Barillari and Felice Quinto. Marcello Geppetti (1933-1998) also undoubtedly served as a model, and it is from his astonishing archive of over a million images that most of the works on display are drawn. Early in his career, Geppetti sent his photographs to press agencies, gaining a reputation both for the technical quality of his images and his talent for capturing dramatic, eye-catching moments. He was employed by the Meldolesi-Canestrelli-Bozzer agency, then one of the most high-profile of its kind, before going freelance. Ironically, Geppetti made his name with harrowing images of a fire at the Hotel Ambasciatori on Via Veneto: the very street that would later provide him with arresting imagery of a quite different nature, as he travelled along it on his scooter on the lookout for celebrities.
Geppetti’s photographs feature the biggest stars of the day, including Brigitte Bardot, Clint Eastwood, Sophia Loren and Rock Hudson. Many capture moments when, as has been said, ‘the ordinary coexisted with the extraordinary’, as in his image of Liz Taylor wandering with a friend through the streets of Cinecittà dressed as Cleopatra, or the actor Mickey Hargitay riding down the Via Veneto on horseback. Undoubtedly, one of his most famous shots is that of Richard Burton kissing Liz Taylor while holidaying in Ischia, a photograph recently listed among the thirty most famous images in history, alongside works by Andy Warhol and Cecil Beaton. In fact, his work has been seen as transcending the somewhat negative public image of this type of imagery, Geppetti having been described as ‘the most undervalued photographer in history’ by American Photo; his photographs have also been compared to those of Cartier-Bresson and Weegee.
As is clear from some of the images on view, celebrities considered the behaviour of the paparazzi as intrusive then as they do today. One photograph captures the actor Franco Nero in the act of assaulting Geppetti’s fellow paparazzo, Rino Barillari, at the Trevi Fountain, while another series of images show Anita Ekberg in her stockinged feet confronting another paparazzo with a bow and arrow before attacking him with her fists.
Of a quite different nature are the intimate series of images by Arturo Zavattini (b. 1930)who, from the 1950s, worked as a cameraman and director of photography for a number of filmmakers, including Vittorio De Sica and Paolo Nuzzi. Today Zavattini looks after an archive dedicated to the work of his father Cesare (1902-1989), the celebrated screenwriter and pioneer of Neo-realism. Obtained with the full consent of Fellini, these remarkable photographs capture an atmosphere of relaxed creativity and shared artistic vision between cast and crew on the set of the director’s landmark film. Ironically, this cinematic masterpiece addresses, in part, the notion of celebrity.
Revealing the public, professional and private lives of some of the movie industry’s most celebrated actors and actresses, The Years of La Dolce Vita not only provides a candid and evocative snapshot of an era noted for its extraordinary vitality, but also presents a selection of images which, for better or worse, helped to change the face of photojournalism forever.
“The Years of La Dolce Vita” was at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, Canonbury Square, London, from 30th April to 29th June 2014.
On the last 1st April, the Saatchi Gallery, London, opened the exhibition Pangaea: New Art From Africa and Latin America. Taking its title from the prehistoric landmass that conjoined Africa and Latin America, this major survey reunites the two former sister continents by bringing together the work of 16 of their contemporary artists.
The exhibition celebrates and explores the parallels between their distinctly diverse cultures and creative practices, as they begin to receive recognition in the increasingly globalised art world.
In Europe and the USA, art has typically advanced through a constant renewal of innovative ideas and movements. We are now experiencing an important global shift as artists seek to explore new art in regions outside their immediate geographical and historic context for inspiration.
The desire by artists and their audiences to discover fresh influences from a broader body of work has inspired the recent preoccupation of museums to broaden their Eurocentric collections.
Against this backdrop, the artists in Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America respond to present day complexities in diverse and innovative ways. Years of colonial rule, rapid urban expansion, migration and political and economic unrest remain subjects for many of the artists whose reflections on the richness of their environment translate into an intense visual experience.
Rafael Gómezbarros’ Casa Tomada has taken over the facade of numerous national monuments. The giant ants address issues of diaspora and internal displacement suffered in Colombia for several decades due to the armed conflict wreaking havoc on the country.
Antonio Malta Campos’ bold paintings emerge from a single pattern that organically grows over time and gives way to recognisable forms and a perceived narrative.
Vincent Michea’s bold paintings are inspired by the architecture and population of his hometown Dakar, Senegal’s largest city with a constantly changing landscape.
Aboudia’s vast canvases are occupied by a multitude of characters displaying menacing weapons, and are a record of the sudden escalation of violence following electoral chaos in the city of Abidjan in 2011.
While a few artists from Africa and Latin America have gained international acclaim, a vast number remain relatively unknown. The full scope of work on display in this exhibition, which includes new painting, photography, installation and sculpture, encapsulates this sense of diversity – a bubbling energy surfacing in the two great continents that were once Pangaea.
Pangaea: New Art From Africa and Latin America features work by Aboudia, Leonce Agbodjélou, Fredy Alzate, Antonio Malta Campos, Rafael Gómezbarros, David Koloane, José Lerma, Mário Macilau, Ibrahim Mahama, Dillon Marsh, Jose Carlos Martinat, Vincent Michea, Oscar Murillo, Alejandra Prieto, Boris Nzebo, Christian Rosa
Pangaea: New Art From Africa and Latin America will run until the 31st August 2014, at the Saatchi Gallery, London.
Vivien Leigh as Lady Hamilton in ‘That Hamilton Woman’ by Robert Coburn, or by Laszlo Willinger bromide print, 1941 @ National Portrait Gallery.
A previously unseen and newly acquired photograph of one of Britain’s most important actresses, Vivien Leigh, and her husband Laurence Olivier, taken at the height of their celebrity status is on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London. The photograph is shown alongside two rarely seen portraits of the couple to mark the start of the Gallery’s programme celebrating the centenary of Leigh’s birth.
The photograph, taken on 31 May 1949 by British photojournalist Larry Burrows, shows Leigh and Olivier at a theatrical garden party held at Roehampton Club in London to benefit the Actors Orphanage Fund, of which Olivier was President. In the picture, Leigh is speaking through a megaphone to a delighted crowd whilst Olivier is waving four small balls above his head, presumably to be used for a coconut shy at the event. During the couple’s sell-out tour of Australia and New Zealand the previous year, Leigh had received critical acclaim for her performances in The Skin of Our Teeth and The School for Scandal, and Olivier for his lead role in Richard III.
The photograph is one of Larry Burrows’ earliest, taken while he worked for Life magazine’s London bureau. He went on to take some of the most memorable photographs of the war in Vietnam from 1962, but died with three fellow journalists when their helicopter was shot down over Laos in 1971. The photograph has been given to the National Portrait Gallery by Burrows’ son and daughter-in-law, Russell Burrows and Barbara Baker-Burrows, especially for the Gallery’s centenary celebrations. The photograph has been selected as the Gallery’s Photo of the Month for November and is showcased alongside two other rare portraits of the couple: one taken on the set of The School for Scandal by Vivienne in 1949 and the other by Paul Tanqueray in 1942.
The three photographs will be exhibited in the Gallery in the lead up to the opening of an extensive display, Starring Vivien Leigh: A Centenary Celebration, on 30 November 2013. Telling the story of the film and theatre career of the widely celebrated actress, and focusing on her Oscar-winning role in Gone With the Wind (1939), the display will feature over 50 portraits of Leigh alongside a selection of rare memorabilia including magazine covers, vintage film stills and press books. Many of the photographs in the display have not been exhibited in the Gallery before and include leading photographers such as Bassano, Cecil Beaton, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Howard Coster, Angus McBean, Norman Parkinson, Laszlo Willinger and Madame Yevonde.
Leigh was one of the most famous women of the twentieth century. For twenty years, with her husband Laurence Olivier, she was part of the most celebrated, talented and glamorous British couples of the era. Her most famous performance, as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, brought her worldwide recognition and the first of two Academy Awards. The second Oscar was for the 1951 film production of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire, starring opposite Marlon Brando.
Starring Vivien Leigh: A Centenary Celebration spans Leigh’s fascinating career, beginning with a still of her first un-credited film performance in Things Are Looking Up (1934) and Norman Parkinson’s studio portrait taken at the time of her stage success in The Mask of Virtue (1935), and ending with her last film role in Stanley Kramer’s Ship of Fools (1965), for which she received the French Crystal Dove award as best actress.
Other theatrical and film roles represented in the display include her first appearance with her future husband Laurence Olivier in Fire Over England (1937); Leigh with Rex Harrison in Storm in a Teacup (1937); Leigh in two Hollywood films, with Robert Taylor in Waterloo Bridge (1940) and as Nelson’s mistress Lady Hamilton with Olivier in That Hamilton Woman (1941); and her role in the most expensive British film, at the time, Gabriel Pascal’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra (1945).
Terence Pepper OBE, Head of Photographs Collection, National Portrait Gallery, London says: ‘Vivien Leigh was one of the most extraordinary British talents and beauties in the film and theatre world of the second half of the twentieth century. Already well-represented in the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection, it been a great pleasure to research her iconography further and to source many additional and little known images that highlight her contributions, ranging from her early appearance as an Elizabethan lady in the film in which she fell in love with Laurence Olivier, Fire over England (1937), as well as her Oscar-winning roles, playing Southern Belles in Gone with the Wind and Streetcar Named Desire.’
The previously unseen photograph of Leigh and Olivier by Larry Burrows is on display as Photo of the Month from 1 November 2013 in Room 31, and later as part of Starring Vivien Leigh: A Centenary Celebration from 30 November 2013.
“Starring Vivien Leigh: a centenary celebration” is on display until 20 July 2014, National Portrait Gallery, London.